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How To Motivate Channel Partners

Published: 30th July 2021

A channel partner network is a sales approach that offers fantastic opportunities to increase your reach and penetrate new markets. The success of your channel partners is a shared success, but like all partnerships, it takes effort to ensure they are effective. Keeping your channel partners motivated, ultimately, leads to increased sales.

For them to succeed and for them to remain motivated, they need to be given the right tools, whether this is the first time you partnered with them (e.g. passing on product knowledge, providing sales information, effective onboarding) or you’re nurturing the relationship you have with long-term partners. However, that relationship shouldn’t stop at sales, marketing and technical support for the partner itself. Consideration should also be given to the engineers and installers that install, support, maintain, and test your products.

Motivating your channel partners also means you maintain your competitive edge. Bear in mind that there’s a good chance they are supplying products from your competitors. Providing partners with support and offering them the opportunity to gain a better understanding of your products promotes more successful sales.

With a well-nurtured partnership comes a strong sales relationship, leading to a natural promotion of your product over others.

In this article, I want to dive deep into motivating your channel partners, based on what I have seen in our two decades of working with businesses across several sectors. 

Four Effective Ways to Motivate your Channel Partners

There are several ways to motivate your channel partners, but the biggest strategies that will make a difference are these: 

Develop an online training programme

You can build a programme around motivating your partner network through developing an online training programme, ideally through an experienced training service provider.

Through its processes and features, a well-structured training programme enables you to deliver a consistent, efficient, responsive, and proactive programme with the partners. Some of the key areas to cover are:

  • Sales training
  • Product training
  • Technical training
  • Incentive programmes
  • Marketing support
  • Dedicated web training portals
  • Feedback on training status through the review process
  • Dedicated partner communications and events
  • End user and market promotion of training programme

In addition to training, extensive marketing resources are often made available to partners to help promote their training and certifications. This can include:

  • Communication of partner status information on public websites
  • Web partner locator 
  • Certification on approval
  • Promotion of partner programme to end-users
  • Full range of channel ready support, sales, and marketing collateral

When creating your training programme, it’s always worth considering charging for your training as the revenue from this can help recoup the investment you made for creating the programme in the first place. 

This also has the added benefit of incentivising your partners to complete the training. Pricing psychology comes into play here as people tend to think paid for items have greater value than those that are free. Generally speaking, if someone pays for something, then it becomes a premium product in their mind and they’re much more likely to engage with it. 

Introduce a tiered system

Another tried and tested technique for motivating channel partners is using what we call partner segmentation. One common example of this is a tiered partner network. For instance, you could introduce a ‘Platinum Partners’ tier for your top sellers.

If you structure your programme that sees the partners progress through a tiered system, it gives everyone in your network an incentive to want to succeed. You can then link your training to your tiers—that is, to become a top-tier partner, they have to have a certain level of training within their organisation. This then tells you that they’re vested in you as an organisation, they’re knowledgeable about your products, and that they have the technical expertise to install and support your products. 

Provide certification incentives

Badges and certifications provide your partners with a vested interest in completing your training courses. 

On our learning management system, for instance, we have bespoke, customisable digitised certification and qualification badges. They look similar to an ID badge and include the student’s photograph and the qualifications they have achieved. By using the accompanying app, students can then quickly and easily access the badge whenever it’s needed. They can also share those badges on social media like LinkedIn or Facebook to show which qualifications they’ve gained.

For the partner, this gives proof of knowledge and potentially a competitive edge. 

Communicate frequently and keep them up to date 

This is about having a good line of communication and maintaining multiple touch points between yourself and your partners. Be responsive to their questions, their wants, and their needs. Make sure that your communication channels are open and frequent. 

Training helps with knowledge transfer, so make sure you get all relevant information to your partners and keep that up to date. It’s all well and good to set up a partner training programme with the best intentions of getting all the information over, but if that’s not kept up to date, frustration can quickly creep in and jeopardise the relationship. 

If you’re giving them outdated information, then there’s a chance that they’re going to look foolish if they’re out selling your products. Their reputation, and yours, will suffer as a result.

why training plays an important role in partner programmesMistakes to Avoid

Over the years, I’ve also seen many mistakes. Instead of incentivising channel partners, these oversights and errors are ultimately going to partners off your training courses: 

Not maintaining your channel partner training

Sometimes partners will look to build and launch their programmes, do a big release of a large set of courses using a platform, and then the team will disperse to other projects, never to get the focus back on it. When launching courses, you have to maintain your focus and stick with it. 

Knowledge is an ever-moving goal post, which means you’ve got to maintain relevance. And if you’re not updating your material, you’ll have no reason for your partners to come back to refresh their learning. They also won’t be able to find out about new products, new updates you’ve done, or any changes in your sales strategy. 

Looking at training in isolation

Another key mistake is organisations that look at training in isolation. Training has to be seen as an element in a broader partner programme, which includes more than just the training. That relationship cannot be built purely on the training.

It’s all about your sales model and your sales approach. It’s supporting your partner through product updates and maintaining your relationships. So don’t look at this in isolation; instead, look at this from a long-term perspective. 

Summary 

Channel partner programmes keep the supply chain running seamlessly. However, keeping your network motivated can sometimes be a challenge. For programmes to truly work, you need to offer the right motivation. This is where well-executed training programmes can help.

It’s important to keep your goals aligned and effectively communicate expectations and achievements back to your channel partners. Using techniques like partner segmentation (tiers) and certification is a powerful way of motivating but, ultimately, for the best results it pays to develop an online training programme with an experienced training provider like Wahoo Learning, who can bring their experience to bear, monetise your training and keep your courses up to date. 

If you are looking to create a training programme that will really engage with your partner network, get in touch with us today and we’ll walk you through our learning management system and our range of specially developed training programme management services.

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The author - Lloyd Smith

The author - Lloyd Smith

Lloyd is the Managing Director of Wahoo Learning. He has a passion for the learning technology industry, particularly the latest innovations and technologies.

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